Updated on:
December 7, 2021

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The Crater At The Top Of Maui

When, Where, And How To See One Of Maui’s Best Sights – Haleakala Volcano

There are many fabulous sights to see on Maui, but my own personal favorite is the crater at the top of the Haleakala volcano.  It’s something you can’t see anyplace else.

Some people never see the crater because they heard you have to go up there at sunrise, and sunrise comes at a bad time of day, especially when you are on vacation and don’t feel like getting up at 3 AM to start the trip up to the top.  But there is no need to go at sunrise.  In my opinion, the crater looks best in the middle of the day, when the sunlight is shining down into the depths, lighting up the sand and rocks and minerals and making them sparkle.

You can take a van tour to this 10,023-foot peak (the highest point on Maui) or drive up there yourself.  Pick up a free map in the baggage-claim area of the Maui airport, or at the concierge desk in any hotel.  The drive is somewhat difficult on a winding mountain road.  Allow about two and a half hours each way, plus time to stop for sightseeing along the way. It’s in a national park, which charges an entrance fee of $25 per car.

If you are going to drive up to the Haleakala for sunrise, you will need a permit in advance.  (This is separate from the national park entrance fee which you pay as you enter the park.) The price for a sunrise permit is $1.00 per car, and you have to get it before you go, from this web page.  The permit requirement for sunrise on Haleakala started February 1, 2017, because too many cars were showing up for sunrise some days, and there were often not enough parking spaces for all of them.  So they now issue a limited number of permits (150) in order to limit the number of cars at the summit at the time of sunrise.  You do not need an advance permit if you are going to the top of Haleakala after sunrise (after 7 AM).

The temperature at the top is 20 to 25 degrees colder than at the beach, and it can be windy, so bring all your warmest clothes. It can be cloudy sometimes at the summit, blocking some or all of your view of the crater.  Learn more about Haleakala weather.

Although Maui’s volcano last erupted only about 225 years ago, that eruption was on the south side, south of Makena.  The crater at the top last erupted 650 years ago.

Usually, you just view the crater from the rim.  But if you are more adventurous, you can hike down into the crater (very difficult hiking back up).  If you are wondering about the famous bike ride down the mountain (not recommended), click on my page about bike the volcano.

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What to do after your Haleakala Adventure

After a visit to Haleakala summit, we recommend a stop at Mahalo Aleworks in Pukalani. Mahalo Aleworks is the latest brewery to open their doors on the island, and their beers feature fruits and spices either grown on farms on the slopes of Haleakala or in the brewery’s own orchard. The beers at Mahalo Aleworks appeal to all tastes, as their menu features a variety of styles, from hazy IPAs to brown ales to saisons.

Mahalo Aleworks Brew

If lunch is what you’re after, Upcountry Sausage Co. has a cart stationed on the patio at Mahalo Aleworks. They grill up sausages made to order that come heaping with your choice of toppings. Alternatively, one of Upcountry’s best pizza joints, Restaurant Marlow, is located right next door. Guests of the brewery can order pizza from Marlow to enjoy with their beer.

Upcountry Sausage Co. and Marlow pizza

Click for more things to do on Maui.

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Photos & video of the crater at the top of Haleakala Volcano


See the page of Things To Do In Maui for luaus, whale watching, snorkeling, tours, helicopters, horseback riding, ATV, dinner cruises, parasailing, fishing, zipline, biking, golf, beaches, kids and family fun, and more.